The League

Anthony Stalter
National Blogger

Anthony Stalter

Senior Sports Editor for The Scores Report

Not about the number

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The details from the night Ben Roethlisberger was accused of sexually abusing a woman in a restroom at the Capital City nightclub in Milledgeville, Ga., are more than a little muddled.

Read between the lines and it sounds like Big Ben's intentions of getting laid that night got thrown into a mixing bowl with the young woman's desire for attention and eventually, her regretful decisions. Based on reports, it's apparent that alcohol played a huge role in the outcome of the evening and while I don't condone anything Roethlisberger did, a woman who has a drunken fling that she later regrets doesn't mean that she didn't consent to it in the first place. (Before anyone jumps down my throat for being insensitive, I'm not excusing Big Ben's actions - I just think that both of them should be held responsible given that they were both drunk and she can't seem to give an account of what happened without changing her story.)

Nevertheless, the results of the situation were incredibly damaging for Roethlisberger, whom the NFL suspended for six games and whom has even been dubbed a rapist by some people. His future with the Steelers is now in doubt as well, as the team is contemplating whether or not to trade him this weekend either before or during the draft.

Let's get something straight first and foremost: It's highly unfair for anyone to call Big Ben a rapist without knowing the details of what transpired that night. That's a pretty heavy word to be tossing around so carelessly, especially considering that he was never charged with committing a crime. Did something happen between the two of them that night? I think that's obvious. Did they both make some poor decisions? I believe so. Was it rape? Nobody knows for sure, which is why people should be more cautious when they use the word to smear Roethlisberger's reputation.

Alas, does the punishment fit the crime? Did Big Ben deserve to be suspended for six games considering he didn't do anything illegal? Truthfully, it doesn't really matter. The league doesn't have a suspension value chart to follow when one of its athletes gets into trouble off the field. Everything is in the hands of Roger Goodell, who makes decisions with the league's best interest at heart.

Personally, I'm fine with whatever Goodell decides. The media and fans wanted someone to step in and crack down on players when they misrepresented the league. Now we have that and people still want to complain. But let me ask you this: What is the appropriate punishment for someone like Roethlisberger, who clearly needs a wake up call, but who has also never been charged with a crime? Is it two games? Four? Twelve? Again, Goodell doesn't have an Excel spreadsheet that he can reference when he wants to punish a player.

And really, what does the actual length of the suspension matter in the end? The key is that Big Ben learns something from this situation. In the past four years, he's been accused of sexually assaulting two women and nearly died after crashing his motorcycle when he wasn't wearing a helmet. Sounds to me like the guy doesn't make the most intelligent decisions, and he continually puts himself into difficult situations.

There's nothing wrong with a single guy going out, getting smashed with his buddies for his birthday and looking to end the night by playing a little Twister with a female companion. But being a young, rich athlete doesn't give someone like Roethlisberger a free pass when it comes to how he spends his free time. He's special because he has the opportunity to make millions of dollars playing a game. And with that privilege, the least he can do is represent the NFL when he's out. (That includes being smart enough to recognize that trying to make advances on a smashed sorority girl in a bathroom with your bodyguards standing outside probably isn't that great of an idea.)

Again, let's not focus on the number of games of Roethlisberger's suspension. Instead, let's hope that the suspension results in his name never being mentioned in one of these reports again.

By Anthony Stalter  |  April 22, 2010; 12:23 AM ET  | Category:  Ben Roethlisberger , Crime , NFL , Pittsburgh Steelers , Quarterbacks , Roger Goodell Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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